I was never blessed to meet this young man, but I heard about him from several people. My son would ask me for money for fundraisers for Randy. I would ask him, "Who is this Randy?" He said Randy was a nice young man who was sick and needed our help. OK, I would say. I would go to the bank, and someone would come up to me and say, "Pray for Randy." "Why?" I would ask. "He is sick with a cancer." No problem; we will pray.
I did not know at first that this was the same Randy my son was talking about. I would come to church and someone would stand up and say, "Please don't forget to pray for Randy!" I wondered if this was the same Randy that the others were talking about.
One July we were having a Concert In The Park, and I was introduced to a young couple. The way they were introduced to me is, "These are the parents of Randy!" "Oh, is that right?" I said, "I heard so much about him. Our prayers are with him and your family."
Then a few weeks ago I was told, "Randy is gone!" The first one to tell me was my son. He texted me from school. He seemed very hurt by the news. They were not in the same grade, they had no classes together, but he knew who he was, and wanted to see him make it out of his sickness. According to my son, it was the way Randy handled his sickness that was inspiring.
My heart immediately went out to Randy's parents. No mother or father wants to bury their child at any age. I am told that Randy had faith and trusted the Lord for the outcome, no matter how the story ended. He trusted God's will and he encouraged others to pray, not for his healing, but for God to get the glory out of his life. I asked his mother what she thought Randy's purpose was in life. His mother said, "His purpose was to do what he did, encourage others to believe in God."
According to Randy's mother, he had Ewing's Sarcoma. It is my understanding that Ewing's Sarcoma is a type of a childhood bone cancer. This type of cancer, I am told, produces a family of tumors that can be very aggressive. I found out that only 1 percent of all childhood cancers are in this family of cancers. What I read is that it could happen to anyone at any age, but it normally happens to children and not adults.
In December 2009, when he had just turned 15, it was discovered Randy had this disease. It was strange in light of the fact he had never been really sick. He played baseball, was a member of a lot of clubs, had lots of friends, and played the trumpet in the middle school band. The family readily admits he may not have been the best, but he enjoyed playing and traveling with the band.
The summer before the sickness, his parents were just thinking how blessed was their family's life. They had two children, a 22-year- old daughter, whose plan is to be a speech pathology major, and Randy. Three years ago, all of their lives were put on hold when Randy took sick. Randy was so proud of his parents and his sister. He had just turned 18 in November, a few months before his death.
The person he loved second to God was Emily, his girlfriend. His mother said that their relationship went deeper than any ordinary teenager's first love. They were two young people, but that was not teenage love, she said. Randy looked for a love like his parents love, and I believe Emily looked for love like her parents' love. Mrs. Stevens is convinced that Emily was an angel in his life.
March 19, 2011 is when Randy met Emily. We asked Emily how they started dating. She said, "Randy and I met when he came back to school for the first time after he was in remission and declared cancer free. He sat at my lunch table and instantly became friends. Randy taught me to never lose hope. He taught me to smile on the darkest days. He showed me that your time on earth may be short. He would always tell me, 'If God brought you to it, He will bring you through it.'"
Last year he took her to Pittsburgh, for their first anniversary. He loved the Penguins hockey team. One year he went to the Super Bowl with the Steelers with the Make A Wish Foundation. They never had a second anniversary.
The team he seemed to love the most was the Wheeling Nailers hockey team. He would have glowed like the sun with joy if he had known that all of the players from the Nailers' team came to his funeral. Zack Torquato, No. 7, was the first Nailer to befriend Randy about a movie they talked about on Twitter. Randy's relationship bloomed to the point that they allowed him in the team meetings. They were very supportive. Some of them were even pallbearers. The coach of the Nailers he led me to believe that Randy started out looking up to them, but it ended with them looking up to him.
I asked Mrs. Stevens what this first Easter without Randy means to her. She said they are no longer doing Easter candy, Easter eggs, and Easter clothes. That whole part of Easter is gone. But the power of Easter is stronger than ever before in their life. Emily said at the funeral that it was more than a love for each other - it was a love for the Lord.
Randy said after the third time he found out he had cancer, "I believe that happiness is the key to life, for without it I am taking the living out of life. It all begins in the mind, because if it does not come from within, you will go without."
Let me wish everyone a very Happy Easter. May we all appreciate the light of life like never before.
Guest columnist Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.